LATE RUN SENDS FRANCHITTI TO OVERALL POLE Dario Franchitti took a stunning overall pole position, his first in the American Le Mans Series, with a blazing final lap Friday to put Andretti Green Racing on the point for...
LATE RUN SENDS FRANCHITTI TO OVERALL POLE
Dario Franchitti took a stunning overall pole position, his first in the American Le Mans Series, with a blazing final lap Friday to put Andretti Green Racing on the point for Saturday's Grand Prix of Long Beach. Franchitti piloted the Andretti Green Racing Acura ARX to a lap of 1:11.838 on the southern California waterfront.
It marked the first pole position for Franchitti and Acura in the American Le Mans Series. The Scot was 0.306 seconds ahead of Ryan Briscoe in the first of Penske Motorsports' Porsche RS Spyders. LMP2 entries took the top three positions with Timo Bernhard third overall in the second Penske Porsche at 1:12.247.
"I'd love to tell you that it was the strategy but I was struggling to get a clean lap through traffic and not making mistakes," Franchitti said. "We were really limited in practice. The last lap I came out of the hairpin to start the final lap and I had to back off because there was another car that couldn't get out of the turn quite right."
It appeared for most of the session that the Penske Porsches would sweep the front row. Briscoe turned his lap on his next-to-last pass around the circuit and felt fairly confident he had secured the top spot.
"On a street course and in a shorter race, track position is important. It will be nice to lead into Turn 1 as well as out of it," Franchitti said. "Any street course by its nature creates a premium on passing. Whenever you do make one, you know you've done something right. We'll see a lot of passing tomorrow but hopefully not passing us."
Rinaldo Capello put Audi Sport North America's lead Audi R10 TDI on the LMP1 pole and fourth overall on the grid. Capello's lap of 1:12.713 was 0.875 seconds back of Franchitti. He was, however, 0.198 seconds ahead of Emanuele Pirro in the sister Audi. Autocon Motorsports' AER-powered Lola will start third in class.
Audi finished 1-2 overall two weeks ago at St. Petersburg's street circuit. Long Beach presents new challenges though with tighter turns and varying racing surfaces from concrete to asphalt and back again.
"For the moment for us this is completely different," Capello said. "At St. Petersburg we improved every time because of the grip. Tomorrow it won't be so easy to keep the pace of the LMP2 cars, which is completely different from St. Petersburg. It's difficult to feel the grip. Every corner has different grip and our car is very difficult to drive because we have such great torque. It makes it hard to drive though because of less grip."
Oliver Gavin took pole position in GT1 for Corvette Racing on his first visit to Long Beach. Gavin became the third different Corvette driver to post a class pole this season. Jan Magnussen took the pole at Sebring in the season opener and Olivier Beretta was the fastest qualifier two weeks ago at St. Petersburg. The English driver turned in a lap of 1:18.145 to take the top spot over Magnussen.
"I like the track. It's a little different from St. Petersburg but it's very good," Gavin said. "I thought we would be up against it because both Jan and Johnny have been here before. I got lucky out there and got in a little bit of space and had luck with the traffic."
Mika Salo gave Ferrari its fourth straight pole position in GT2 with a fast lap of 1:20.916 for Risi Competizione. The Finn was 0.293 second better than the Porsche of Patrick Long and Flying Lizard Motorsports. Salo and teammate Jaime Melo have won the first two events of the season over the other Porsche from the Flying Lizard stable.
"It's a new track for both me and Jaime. Introducing the track with two drivers was going to be tough," Salo said. "We decided to set the car up, not change anything and learn the track."
Salo, at least, was a quick study. The qualifying session was a back-and- forth battle between both of the Risi Ferraris, the Flying Lizard Porsches and the Porsches from Tafel Racing. In all, the top eight cars were within a second of each other.
"It will be a tough race," Salo said. "The Porsches have been pushing us all year. They were very close and they are quicker on a straight line than us. The car is pretty comfortable and running well."
The Grand Prix of Long Beach, Round 3 of the 2007 American Le Mans Series, is scheduled for 4:05 p.m. PT on Saturday, April 14. SPEED will provide same-day broadcast coverage from 8 to 10:30 p.m. ET. MotorsTV in Europe, SPEED Latin America and 7TV in Russia will carry the race live. American Le Mans Radio and IMSA's Live Timing & Scoring will be available at americanlemans.com.